SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


By David G. Hanger


December 02, 2006

Context is generally beneficial, and in respect to our current subject should provide a moment's bemusement as normal man or woman ponders our current crop of politicians and liars, as they squirm desperately seeking to escape the clutches of their dreaded tar baby.  Bear witness thus to the simple truth that between 1861 and 1865 in this fertile land we planted beneath the sod more than 600,000 of our fellow citizens as consequence of that particular bloodletting, a war whose name remained unsettled and the source of frequent and furious argument for at least 12 of the succeeding 14 decades since then.  Only since about 1980 has there been any real consensus that what occurred in those four years was the American Civil War.  The official records of that war are called "The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion."  Among its numerous euphemistic names, a short list would include The War of Secession, The War of the Secession, The War to End Slavery, The War to Free the Slaves, The Late Unpleasantness, The Lost Cause, The Second American Revolution, The War of the Second Revolution, The War Between The States, The War of the Rebellion, The Rebellion, The War to Preserve the Union, The War to Restore the Union, The Civil War, and The American Civil War. 

Some of these euphemistic names were in their time more than simply touchy-feely.  The "Late Unpleasantness" was border state terminology, conveniently neutral in flavor; not so the "Lost Cause" which, of course, is strictly and specifically southern, alluding to a lost and illusory antebellum past.  The "War Between the States" was nineteenth century terminology intended not to offend that in the twentieth century transmuted itself to association with southern states rights, the foundation of racism in the southern states until well past the 1960s.  Some of the names are obviously imprecise in some sense.  The war did result in the freeing of the North American slaves, but that was not the war's purpose.  Such handles as "The War to Preserve (or to Restore) the Union" are difficult to dispute. 

So what's in a name, you might ask?  And yet as evidenced there is in fact quite a bit involved in the choosing of what to name a war.  It is a concern for scholars some decades later to discourse upon at length. 

Has Iraq descended into civil war?  The argument about what to call it is academic.  Personally, I endorse "lost cause;" it's fact, not truism, and wasting the lives of young Americans on this mess beyond this point is criminal.  This cause was lost in 2003 when the U.S. military and the U.S. government failed to secure what it pretentiously claimed to have conquered. 

But call it what you will, understanding its context remains more informative.  In 1940 the population of the USA was about 140 million, and that population incurred 243 combat deaths per day for a period of slightly less than four years during the course of World War II.  Were the U.S. population today being reduced at the equivalent daily rate occurring in Iraq 1370 U.S. citizens would be dying daily, 41,100 monthly, more than 500,000 annually.  Equivalent death rates for the term of U.S. participation in WWII and the American Civil War, respectively, would be 1,875,000 and 2 million.  Actual losses were somewhat less than 400,000 and somewhat more than 600,000, respectively. 

Context provides a clear indication of the magnitude of this misbegotten failure.  Argument about what to call it is the wasted breath of an infantile mind. 

David G. Hanger
Ketchikan, AK

Received December 01, 2006 - Published December 02, 2006


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Ketchikan, Alaska